Looking for a terrific book to read during your holiday travels? Pick up “How the West Really Lost God.” It’s an insightful look at the link between the decline of the family and Christian religions in the Western World; a social shift that has touched every one of us.
The author is Mary Eberstadt, a respected research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Now’s a perfect time to visit Eberstadt’s work with the Thanksgiving season leading into Christmas, the embattled Christian holiday.
Plus, this topic affects our East Valley, a family haven, checkered by welcoming churches. It’s an easy read. Her assessment of the “secularization” of the West is fascinating and honest.
In her search to find whether the failure of the traditional family is taking the church down or vise-versa, Eberstadt examines the “radical redefinition of the family over the last 50 years.” Her conclusion: They’ve each contributed to their weakening roles, but with the launch of “the Pill” in the ’60s, the family began to collapse and as with dominos, the Church is following.
“Family and faith are the invisible double helix of society whose strengths depend on one another.” And, she notes, they represent the “human yearning for moral community.”
As for the traditional family, she concludes: “The Pill and its associated movement, the sexual revolution, contributed to the weakening of family bonds as no other single technological force in history” — a stunning conclusion.
Eberstadt, a consulting editor of Policy Review, ponders the hearts of women who have notably been the force for worship among humanity. Women will rage at the idea they played a major role in this, but the truth is — we/they have.
Clearly, women who once faithfully protected the womb, now, in exchange for their “sexual freedom,” disregard their innate knowledge of the vulnerability of the “weakest” among us.
“Divorce, single parenthood, widespread use of contraception, legal abortion, the sharp drop in the Western birthrate are just some of the transformations in the family structure.” (I include co-habitation and gay marriage).
In evaluating Eberstadt’s findings, we must ask, how the remarkable gift of “the Pill” could have introduced such life altering side effects?
Yes, there are many who celebrate the new paradigms, but the breakdown of the nourishing, human habitat is a great price to pay.
So what is happening to the Christian population? Eberstadt takes us to Europe and Britain, which first experienced the faithful decline. The Church of England, between 1970 and 2005, “closed some 1,700 structures.” Eberstadt observes, this trend is now flooding the West, yet, she notes the growing number of mosques and the rise of Islam; an alarming subject for another day.
Our author tells us: “In sum, the churches that did most to loosen up the traditional moral code of Christianity ... have ended up suffering the most for that effort — demographically, financially, morale-wise and otherwise. Some are on the brink of actual extinction.”
Can this course ever be undone? Eberstadt refers to the late sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, founder of Harvard’s Department of Sociology. He spoke of “catastrophes,” which tend to turn mankind back towards spiritual worship and a noble code of ethics. I guess we wait and watch.
This small column barely introduces this topic. I hope you’re curious enough to read the book. Why bother? Information is power. Eberstadt reminds us data overwhelmingly proves religious believers bring valued contributions to society and children raised in steady, traditional families, do better overall than those who are not.
Important evidence, but now what to do with it?
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.